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Usnea - Bathed In Light review

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Band: Usnea
Album: Bathed In Light
Release date: May 2023

01. Bathed In Light
02. The Compleated Sage
03. To The Deathless
04. From Soot And Pyre
05. Premeditatio Malorum
06. Uncanny Valley

Six years have now passed since Usnea presented us with their dark doomy, atmospheric Portals Into Futility. Now, will Bathed In Light follow the same route, or have those 6 years awoken any surprises? Whatever the case, you can expect something exceedingly heavy.

Usnea are a blackened doom metal act that formed back in 2011, and are based in one of the most active metal scenes in the US, the city of Portland. This latest output, Bathed In Light, is the band's fourth full-length release to date, and also their shortest release, with a running time of forty-three minutes and only six tracks in total. The cosmic artwork cover may suggest an intergalactic themed setting; however, you'll quickly realize the music from Bathed In Light will sound like anything but. Here, you won't get the vibe of floating into the outer realms of the cosmos, but rather a torturous sense of being engulfed deep within the fiery pits of the underworld. After all, we all know that album covers can be deceiving, right?

The opening title track begins at a soft pedestrian tempo, but it's not long before it erupts into a savagely heavy, bone-crushing song, which is built upon an extremely low-toned bass sound, and almighty, deep, heavy, slow funeral doom riffs. The growls accompanying the instrumentation have such a heavy, menacing presence, sounding as if they're risen by a nightmarish demon from deep within the Earth's hellish core. So a heavy opening would be a mere understatement. The following track, "The Compleated Sage", has a much faster tempo to begin with. Here, there's a more blackened, chaotic approach, with blast-beating, tremolo picking and blackened shrieks from the off. The track, however, does later take a drastic turn, and spirals once again into a much more doomy setting. The deep, menacing, hellish growls feature once more, and the drumming slows and becomes more rhythmic; the lead guitar work creates a distinctive melancholic sound, which strikes me as something along the lines of early Katatonia.

These first two tracks pretty much sum up the approach of the album. It's primarily focused on blackened doom with a touch of funeral doom, but you'll also notice some experimenting with alternative metal elements along the way, which gives me an indication that Katatonia were a major influence behind this approach. The track that stands out above all, for me anyway, is the uncomfortably haunting "Premeditatio Malorum". This is the longest, and for me, most interesting track on the album. Clocking in at over eight minutes, it begins with a soft melancholic acoustic passage, which after several minutes suddenly erupts into that almighty heavy doom style of theirs, once again. The song also features what sounds like demonic, sinister chanting in the background, behind the powerful guitar tone and Earth-shattering bass, which is also accompanied by the usual heavy death growls. This adds to a more dramatically dark atmospheric setting.

Overall, Bathed In Light, while shorter than their previous releases, manages to bring some new sounds and styles to the table; however, they certainly haven't held back on creating those dark, hellish atmospheric soundscapes. To a degree, this newish approach works well; the shorter track lengths mean an easier-to-digest listen, meaning you are more likely not to lose concentration like you tend to do on much longer tracks. There's enough variation in structure going on within those tracks to keep things from becoming stale. However, once I reach the end of the final track, there's still that feeling that leaves me thinking: 'oh, is that it?' There are moments I enjoy, and I admire their experimentation, but perhaps Bathed In Light doesn't sustain those heavy, powerful, soul-crushing moments as much I would like. Still, It's an interesting approach, and I look forward to where they go next from here regardless.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 7
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 7
Production: 7

Written on 28.05.2023 by Feel free to share your views.


Comments: 1   Visited by: 28 users
31.05.2023 - 10:03
Rating: 7

I found it to be a pretty decent listen as far as funeral doom-related music goes, although the alt-metal elements must have passed me by while listening; I appreciate it taking the more pleasing aspects of funeral doom and beefing them up with some sludge and blackened hints, particularly on From Soot And Pyre

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